A re-post from many years ago...
The giant wave advances past a luxury hotel and roars through the town, destroying everything in its wake. It’s awesome and terrifying. Sensational filmmaking. Fortunately for the actors, Clint Eastwood was directing. He usually gets it in two or three takes. Imagine poor Ms Cecile de France, who gets swept along like a rag doll, hearing: “Okay. From the top, everybody. Take 46. Cue the water!”
The only trouble with that sequence is… the rest of the movie is dull and lifeless by comparison. And it got me thinking about other movies that had amazing beginnings but fell flat after that. You go into a theater, it starts, you’re blown away, you think you’re in for a really great ride, and then the movie just fizzles.
That first sequence was so effective that Spielberg could have come on the screen himself and said, “Well, folks. That’s what war is really like. Pretty fucking incomprehensibly horrific, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know what else there really is to add. I mean, every soldier had his own story and many are compelling and heartbreaking, but let’s face it – after that invasion – the scope and devastation – how am I gonna follow one or two guys and still have the same impact? I’m good but I’m no David Lean. So instead of making you sit for another hour and a half of “more of the same but not as good”, I’m gonna just let you go. I’m guessing these images I just showed you are going to stay with you for awhile. That’s good. Go have coffee and talk about the brutality of war. Maybe head home and go to that new internet thingy all the kids are raving about and search for information on D-Day. Anyway, thanks for coming. Sorry it was so short, but I’ll make it up to you. BRIDGE OF SPIES will be twice as long as it should be.”
What other movies can you think of that had great beginnings but never lived up to its promise? Here are a few that I can think of:
BODY HEAT – Steamy and sexy for the first twenty minutes. My glasses fogged up. If only they didn’t then get into the story.
Most of the last 20 Bond movies. Wow zowie action sequences that had nothing to do with the plot, followed by Tim Dalton or Pierce Brosnan thwarting supervillains and rescuing Denise Richards (who, we’re supposed to believe in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, is a noted nuclear physicist).
I loved the first half-hour of INDIANA JONES 4 (the real title is too long and doesn’t mean anything anyway). I wish Spielberg had broken in and made a speech in that one too.
FULL METAL JACKET – Stanley Kubrick’s first act in basic training was riveting. Then they go to Vietnam and since they couldn’t take the Drill Sergeant (the great R. Lee Ermey) along with them the movie goes flying off in fifteen different directions. Their “shit was definitely flaky” as the DI might say.
And finally, TOUCH OF EVIL – Disappointing movie and Charlton Heston playing a Mexican is laughable, but this opening tracking shot is nothing short of phenomenal. Especially when you consider it was made in 1958, well before Industrial Light & Magic. Directed by Orson Welles before he succumbed to ego and Pinks’ hot dogs.
Okay, so help me add to the list.